I Learnt A Lot From The Senate


 Senator Muniru Adekunle Muse, an Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, stalwart, represented Lagos Central Senatorial District in the 6th Senate. In this interview, the two-term ex-chairman of old Apapa Local Government, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, reflects on his experience at the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly


Sir, how would you describe your experience in the Senate in the last dispensation?

It was interesting because it was like going back to school to learn. You have to learn in the Senate almost everyday because the work there is not stereotyped. New things happen almost everyday when you are in the chamber. So, I have learnt a lot. I have seen a lot about the unity and security of this nation. And I believe those two things are very important if we are to keep this country one.

What in your view are the gains of the 6th Senate?

To the best of my knowledge, the Sixth Senate kept this country united. The first challenge we tackled when we got to the Senate was to find a lasting solution to government/trade union palaver. It was at the heat of the dispute we got there in 2007. We were able to douse the tension. We called on government to respect the agreement reached with the trade unions and they approved of our resolution. Another important event that happened at that time was the sickness of former President Yar’Adua and how he was taken out of the country without the knowledge of the number two citizen and also brought back unknown to him. That was not good for this country and it could have caused a serious security breach, if it was not handled diligently. To make the Vice President then, Dr, Goodluck Jonathan, act as president, we knew what we did in the Senate. It was a plus for the Senate leadership to have devised the doctrine of necessity that made it possible for Jonathan to act at that time. Without that initiative, there would have been escalation of militant activities in the Niger Delta region. I will also be proud to say that in the committees that I served, I served to the best of my knowledge, particularly in the committee of the Nigerian Air Force of which I was the vice-chairman.

Can you shed more light on the issue?

We made it possible for the Federal Government to release the Presidential aircraft to the Nigerian Air Force so as to be able to carry out surveillance in the South-South to monitor the militant activities in the oil region. Today, the Air Force can be proud of so many workable aircrafts. And we thank God that we had somebody at the helms of affairs in the Senate whom I will describe as a gentleman and a peace-loving fellow. Even though he was a military man, throughout the four years, he did not use his military experience to direct the affairs of the Senate. He never saw himself as the boss; instead, he called his other colleagues my bosses. That is the type of person we need in this country and I am very happy for his return as the President of the Seventh Senate.

Aside the Air Force Committee, in which other committee did you serve?

I also served in Police Affairs, Prisons, State and Local Government and Interior Committees.

The perception in general is that if you don’t make noise in the House, you are not performing. What is your take on this?

That is the feeling of some people in the public, but it is not by making noise that you can show that you are really working or representing the your constituency or district. In the Senate, 60 percent of the work is done at the committee level. The remaining 40 percent is in the chamber for discussion. And while in the Senate, the Senate President can only call on somebody he sees first. There are occasions when other people would have asked the question that you had in mind. In such circumstance, there will be no need for you to repeat the same question. These are some of the things people don’t know about the parliament.

How would you react to the public outcry about the constituency allowances of members of the National Assembly?

I want anybody to challenge me, even at the law court. Constituency allowance was never given to any member of the National Assembly. All we were asked to do was to list project in each individual’s constituency. And we listed them out and passed the list to the appropriate committees. Those who are working on the projects are the ministries. It was not part of our responsibility to look out for contractors to execute the projects. So, while some projects were executed, majority were not executed.

Then, what is all this noise about N240 million quarterly allowances paid to each senator?

It is a lie. How can a senator take N240 million as quarterly allowance? The paper is there, if they want to know how much each senator takes as quarterly allowance. Good enough, there is now in place the Freedom of Information Law. So, journalists are free to check and know exactly how much each senator earns. Isn’t there an iota of truth in the whole allegation especially considering the decision of the new National Assembly to cut down their allowances to about 60 percent?

That is the trend now all over the world. It is not what members of parliament in most countries were earning before that they are earning today. Even the British parliament now has to go into investigating small expenses that are spent illegally by legislators. It is not going to be business as usual again.

What would you say was your major contribution to lawmaking in your four-year tenure at the Senate?

We worked quite a lot at committee level. Before any bill brought to the House is passed, it must go to the appropriate committees. And as I have earlier told you, I played a very prominent role in the committee on Air Force. For you to appreciate the contributions I made in the committees that I belonged, you will get the answer from various ministries. Till today, they all commend me for the roles I played at various committees where I served.

The issue of Bakassi Peninsular also happened during your tenure. What role did the Senate play in ceding that part of the country to Cameroun?

Incidentally, I was part of the committee on this Bakassi issue. But most people don’t know that it was ceded during the military era when things were done by decree. There had been agreement between Cameroun and Nigeria on what to do with the disputed area. By the agreement which the United Nations, UN, also sanctioned, Cameroun was not supposed to drive out Nigerians from the disputed region. What we did was to make sure that the two countries did their best as far as the agreement was concerned.

What were your contributions to the district?

I have been doing a lot for the district even right from when I was the Chairman of Apapa Local Government. There was a shanty which I also gave to a developer and built to a plaza. It is there till today. The building where Tantalizer is at Apapa was completely burned down before I became the chairman. During my campaign for the chairmanship position, I promised to rebuild it. And soon as I came into office, I made investigation into how it was burnt. Subsequently, I invited the tenants and resolved to pay them their tenancy fees and they all happily agreed. Through a proposal submitted by a company which was approved at our executive meeting, the building was rebuilt. And till today, all the buildings are generating revenues for the local government. Apart from infrastructure, I gave 10 scholarships to students of the University of Ibadan who were from my Alma Mater – Methodist Boys High School. I still give them till date. What I have done in my area can fill four pages of your paper. Go and speak with those people you see around here, they will tell you that you can never enter Alhaji Muse’s House and come out without a smile. I feel glad about such statement.

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